While there has been so much attention given in recent years to the importance of probiotics across a wide spectrum of important aspects of human physiology, we are just beginning to see an expansion of the medical literature clarifying the importance of prebiotic fiber as it relates to health.
Prebiotic fiber is a type of carbohydrate that we as humans do not digest. That said, our gut bacteria thrive on prebiotic fiber, as it allows them to reproduce, and enhances their ability to make various products that are so important for our health.
Much of the work on prebiotic fiber has been done using the animal model, typically mice, in which administration of prebiotic fiber has been shown to have dramatic and positive effects, upon the gut bacteria. Beyond that, positive metabolic effects are seen as well. Continue reading
I have written quite a bit lately about the health benefits of dandelion greens, mostly because of their rich content of prebiotic fiber, as well as other nutrients. But there’s another member of the dandelion family that deserves attention: chicory. Continue reading
I recently had the opportunity to interview Dr. Mark Plotkin, a renowned ethnobotanist who has spent almost three decades studying traditional plant use with the traditional healers of tropical America. Previously, he served as Research Associate in ethnobotanical conservation at the Botanical Museum of Harvard University and now serves as president of the Amazon Conservation Team, an organization dedicated to studying and raising global awareness of the ever-increasing rates of bio-diversity loss in the Amazon region.
Dr. Plotkin made it very clear to me that it is this diversity that allows the Amazon region to respond to changes in climate and other environmental pressures. He further revealed how the diversity of flora and fauna in the Amazon actually influences the health of the entire planet, providing a measure of resilience, or lack thereof, in terms of responding to environmental changes.
This interview really stuck with me. These concepts moved me, and resonated greatly with the understanding we have of what goes on within each and every one of us. Like the Amazon, we are, in great measure, very much dependent upon the diversity of the organisms that live within us. Diversity equals resilience. Continue reading
A new study in laboratory animals inoculated with human gut microbes shows how desperately important dietary prebiotic fiber is, in terms of maintaining microbial diversity. Low levels of prebiotic fiber lead to loss of diversity, which, in humans, is associated with a variety of diseases, including diabetes and autoimmune conditions. The study further demonstrates that while introduction of prebiotic fiber does restore the diversity to some degree, subsequent generations of these laboratory animals are less able to recover their diversity, with some species of gut organisms actually becoming extinct.
You’ve heard of the term probiotics, and likely prebiotics as well, but now we are hearing about “psychobiotics.” These have been defined as:
living organisms that, when ingested in adequate amounts, produces a health benefit in patients suffering from psychiatric illness.
That’s a pretty impressive new term, and claim for that matter. But the reason that scientists have developed this terminology is because new research clearly demonstrates that certain probiotic organisms have a dramatic effect on regulating mood.
Flour made from chestnuts has become a popular choice for those who have decided to go gluten-free. In this video, we take a look at chestnut flour right from its source and explore the various nutritional considerations for it as a food choice.
One of the main advantages of chestnut flour, aside from the lack of gluten, is that it is a really good source of resistant starch, a form of prebiotic fiber that serves to nurture probiotic bacteria, allowing them to increase their production of health enhancing short chain fatty acids like butyrate. In addition, like olive oil, chestnut flour contains meaningful levels of mono unsaturated fatty acids which represents another plus.
As mentioned in the video, chestnut flour does contain sugar, so restraint is recommended.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) has been diagnosed in more than 400,000 Americans, with about 200 new cases identified each week.
The overwhelming approach in addressing MS is centered on drugs designed to alter the course of the disease once it has manifested. Fortunately, leading edge researchers around the globe are exploring other approaches, including modifiable lifestyle factors, that may be leveraged in a situation like MS, in which the immune system has became out of balance.
In this video blog, I review a study published by German researchers in which they manipulated the fatty acid availability in laboratory animals while they assessed various markers of immune regulation.
What these researchers discovered is that when short chain fatty acids were enhanced in the laboratory animal model of human MS, the immune markers that are typically out of balance were brought under control. When long chain fatty acids were accentuated, the immune markers worsened.
We make short chain fatty acids when our gut bacteria are provided fuel in the form of prebiotic fiber. So the take home message is that this research would indicate that it may be reasonable for MS patients to consider increasing their consumption of prebiotic foods as a method of achieving immune balance.
We are certainly hearing a lot these days about the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet, and with good reason. There is so much being written how effective this diet is in terms of being associated with reduced risk for a vast panorama of diseases. From diabetes to obesity to coronary artery disease, the foods that constitute this diet are really gaining the attention of scientists and consumers around the world.
When you analyze the Mediterranean diet you learn that it differs from what most Americans seem to be eating in that it’s remarkably lower in added sugars and processed fats. It also includes foods that are nutrient-dense and help boost the amount of fiber a person consumes. As it turns out, the fact that many of the fiber-rich foods that you’ll find on this diet are high in prebiotic fiber may well explain why we’re seeing such health benefits with this way of eating.
America ranks amongst the highest of all countries in terms of the prevalence of obesity/overweight in its population. No doubt, much of the blame can be placed on the dietary habits that so characterize the American way of life.
While our calorie-rich, nutrient-poor diet is certainly one of the main factors contributing to our growing waistlines, new research indicates that another important issue may be at play causing Americans to pack on the pounds.
Researchers at the Genome Sequencing Center at Washington University have demonstrated that there are remarkable differences in the bacteria living in the intestines of lean humans versus those who are obese. Lean individuals have a higher ratio of a major group of bacteria, Bacteroidetes, when compared to another major group, Firmicutes. The obese subjects in the research project were found to have much higher levels of Firmicutes organisms when compared to the levels of Bacteroidetes.